|I am getting worse and worse at keeping you all updated, but by no means is it because there is nothing to write about. It is now July and it is busier than ever. I begin this letter in the New Year and the positive vibe that the news of Butterfly is spreading. Our first visitor of the year was Scott who is the brother of Stewart who was here last summer and the nephew of Craig Hardie who was with us setting up the information room all those year ago and now has a massive mango business in the south of Malawi. Word of mouth is our most positive tool.
He got involved in several projects including the media room, teaching and the youth club with Richard who ended up staying six months. There were big preparations for the annual Permaculture course in March and it went smoothly again. Josie’s organizing and passion drives the course and we had Lisa Swennen and Kenneth Mwakasungula doing the training this time. As usual there were a mixture of International visitors and Malawians involved in Permaculture at a local level. Representatives from the Education and Agriculture Department also took part with the aim to spread the knowledge further. Lasting connections were made, both with lead farmers in the area and also on International member, Kate Swatridge who has since moved into the area and helped continue the ideas we started at the course. An American volunteer, Adam, gave our gardens a makeover as he busily got to work turning heads with his muster for physical work and planting.
The computer room has experienced problems with the internet connection but we did have a new recruit, Nun, who has since moved on to continue her studies but was a great asset and example of women’s empowerment giving out free lessons and computer knowledge. She is sadly missed but got movie night back up and running which is now packed each week.
Harriet and Amy came, again from past connections, as Amy is Anna Wilsons sister who gave Gulugufe nursery a big motivating push a couple of years ago .Amy is a physiotherapist and loved our Friday club as did Jessica from Canada. They have recently been part of Special Olympics and an exchange school visit with St John’s in Mzuzu. Amy used her skills at the centre in Mpamba. She went there daily to manage the latest trainings and had many clients with weird and wonderful disabilities lined up outside the office. The centre has really turned a corner as the tailors now have a steady income sewing school uniforms and bags. The cooking training is also now complete and the restaurant has opened with fine interiors, painted and decorated by Rob, Max and Jamie our English boys from Hampton school. They were very active volunteers at Butterfly youth club and in the playground re-vamp. Angus, Steph and Mikheal also gave us a new see-saw, swings, and climbing frame as their month’s contribution. Steph was also very interested in our small businesses so the peanut butter women, massage ladies and sewing group got marketing training, new logos and posters and were able to offer their services at the Mpamba centre launch. Lin from Australia also introduced kinesiology and new massage techniques and we now have a massage table donated.
Harriet rejuvenated our netball team and led us to many matches which although ‘trying’ our best we were up against tough competition. She was also an amazing classroom assistant at ‘little leapers.’ She came with comedy, patience, and kindness that made the class full of joy and learning. Little leapers are coming to an end but as I reflect I see how far they have all come and I am planning a new batch. We have Hazel Packer from Ezmeekie’s school in England, Crossways, teaching now along with Sommer and Emma, all qualified and passionate teachers who have so much drive and are making a fabulous team. Emma leaves a phonic program behind and together they will teacher train. What a difference it has made to 12 little lives, 9 of them continue on to Beehive school in Mzuzu where this amazing head start has set them up. Its success has encouraged me to take over another 15 achievers from Gulugufe and around to continue the standard 1 class for another year. The chance to avoid a class of 130 makes them leap ahead for their future.
Gulugufe’s teachers will attend the training and are doing a brilliant job as ever and have had lots of help from volunteers, Giovanni, Becky, Lin, The Canadian girls from Renaissance college, Jessica, Emma and their leader Ella. She introduced new phonic programs and really woke up the teachers to their potential.
The Canadians were here as part of their college project and really were a part of all of the projects individually and together. They had a love for Chikale School following Brandon’s footsteps and professional manner. They unfortunately had government issues that stopped them as immigration forcefully removed them from volunteering along with another lady and her family Kirsty…….she then lent her skills to the FAWNs group and helped me organise the program and it is now easy, manageable and can be accessed on line for anybody to run the session or the program from start to finish. Another ten members have graduated with various businesses from chapatti to soap making, with help from Emma and Becky and we are now ready for the next influx.
We were also lucky to make connections with a Malawian journalist, Masozi Kasambala, who works for Zodiak Radio, who wanted to come and help teach the youth here in Nkhata Bay. With the help of some friends he conducted a two month workshop here, with over 25 participating students. They learned about the principles of journalism, how to make a story and in more depth how this relates to radio production. With plenty of practical and interviews under their belt the group will be invaluable when the radio starts properly.
Josie jet set off to Brazil for her football fantasy in June and I don’t know how to explain what Butterfly has been like over this last month? I have loved meeting and seeing how international visitors can come together in Malawi to make a difference. Butterfly has taken flight with the buzz of all the activity. At one time we had 50 volunteers on site and they all managed to stay busy with all the work that needs doing. The spirit of the community also started a phase of performances. B who works in the kitchen has shown a love for the stage and has encouraged song, dance, quizzes and fun from both volunteers and customers. I hope it remains a tradition that when your leaving you must ‘entertain.’ Sadly B has decided to continue her schooling, so good luck to her too. How many friends she has made while working here? B is back in the movie.
Within the masses there were 10 more world racers like last year. They are a Christian organization who had many missions spreading the word of God. They spent a week up at Dindano nursery which is always crying out for volunteers ready for the real village experience and came back with only positive stories. They also revived the sanitary towel project and had a meeting to begin mass production for the ladies up the mountain.
Another group was Marlwood School from my homeland, who have dedicated a five year commitment to groups coming out. This was a great start and they made a massive impression and link at Chindozwa School painting 4 classrooms and building two toilets .They also gave our youth club a makeover as well as bringing many lessons and activities to the youth. For 17 year olds they were mature, fun, low maintenance and welcome back next year. We were all impressed with their effort and energy!
Harry is back again from the South west massive, this time with another group Rachel, Pete, Wango and David. Nicknamed team UK, they have already contributed so much and will continue. I had a new project ready for them-therapy in the prison. Jessica and I went in for the first session and they go almost daily with bible study and spiritual healing. We soon put our heads together and remembered the success of last year’s sports day. With all these volunteers we put on a great show with lovely prizes from Hampton school, Marlwood and as always Gill Leaper and the Thornbury charity shops. There were so many events, netball, football, volleyball, swimming, three legged races, basketball shoot out and cross country. It was a real community event bringing all walks of life together, reminding me what a magical town I live in. Plus it was a great chance for the new business groups to sell their produce at the beach.
Another project I have been working on with a local councilor is a problem with the town’s waste. The Hampton boys Rob, Max and Jamie developed the idea in Senga Bay, providing reusable burnable bins. Richard and Emma are still working on this as he makes a very professional proposal that he has submitted to the District Council but as always officialdom slows the process. The concept is great and maybe Butterfly plus some local banks can sponsor the clean up, maintenance and construction.
I have also teamed up with an old Peace Corps volunteer Cam to help with the HIV program she is running. It is called Grass roots Soccer and is a very well known South African initiative. We meet every week to combine sport with educational activities on HIV to young girls from 12-25. You can find out more details on line. Four weeks in it has given me fuel for my new job as well as being popular amongst the girls.
My closing note! I was successfully interviewed at Mzuzu Academy, an international school in Mzuzu. I will start teaching secondary school life skills in September for three days a week. By no means does this mean a back seat at Butterfly. I will be away a bit more but am still committed to the running of all the projects and the lodge. I will let you know how I juggle it but I am very excited with the prospect of this new challenge. And as ever I owe all my happiness and motivation to my best friend Frances who keeps this and all my projects going. Massive thanks Frances.
“Hidden in our hearts is a longing to live deeply and with purpose and joy, to know and to be known, to be concerned with another; and to make a difference. In this dance of giving and receiving, we create our community, our World and ourselves”